Tag Archives: pop culture

John Safran: Misogynist Until Proven Otherwise

A few nights ago at the Standard, I found myself agreeing with a friend (Zoe, who else?) on the topic of John Safran’s Race Relations (you can watch the whole episode on the ABC website here). Despite my railing, it seems audiences love his personal-essay-on-screen style. Audiences are daft. For example, why do the opening credits imply that the show is going to help us with race relations, but the show itself focuses exclusively on Safran’s experience. Where are the Hindus, dammit?

Nonetheless, this is not the shows fatal flaw. No, the problem with Race Relations is that we have no idea what the man is thinking.

Safran, as many will know, has a very distinctive voice. A weedy twang that we’ve become accustomed to, whether interrupting the indignant stuttering of Father Bob on Triple J or in his previous incarnations versus God, racing around the world or hosting a music jamboree. It is somewhat ironic then, that most of what we’ve heard so far on Race Relations is Safran’s seemingly ironic musings on retro books about intermarriage. Episode Four was no different. The show opens with Safran holding up a book, and explaining its thesis: Asian women are more marriageable as they age better and stay attractive longer. Presumably, that’s ironic right? Presumably we’re supposed to laugh a bit and think, but of course race doesnt’ really have anything to do with longevity of attraction.

Safran then goes about asking four of his ex-girlfriends if they could request their mothers to make out with him, to see how well attraction ages. Logical, I know. Already in the series, Safran has run around like a naughty little boy stealing panties of ex-girlfriends so that he can sniff them blindfolded. He’s also already asked and procured a make out session with an Aryan woman in Anne Franks’ attic. With that in mind, we come to the living rooms of four mothers with their daughters, three of whom end up making out with John Safran on air. Like with most of the series, it’s essentially one sketch where the punchline is “it’s for research, right!”

The first woman hesitates, but agrees in the end. The next seems to consent a little more readily. The third’s reaction isn’t shown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last mother, a traditionally dressed non-English speaking Japanese woman declines a kiss on the the mouth, but compromises with a kiss on the cheek.

We’ll never know how many women Safran approached, or how that third woman responded. What we can be sure of is that it’s totally unfair to be asked to kiss a documentary maker, and a former friend of your daughter while the cameras are rolling. Noone wants to be uncooperative, let their daughter down, or indeed, seem uncool on the television.

Now I’m not saying Safran and his team wouldn’t have respected the explicitly stated wishes of anyone they film. They probably did. The bigger issue is that which is less explicit. Did those women feel like props? Do they have partners who might have problems with it? Were they were given time to think about the request? How did the ex-girlfriend who completely freaked out mid-kiss deal with it afterwards? Do any of them regret it?

All this comes back to that problem I raised earlier: Safran’s lack of editorial voice. See, when you ask a rhetorical question like “do Asian women stay attractive longer?”, you also need to equip your audience with an easy and obvious answer. Aside from the one-sketch-ness of it, Safran fails to deliver thoughts on the matter outside “Yes! Definitely prefer the older Asian woman!”. In doing so, Safran fails to convince us that he’s thought about what he’s doing: a unsettling trait when what you’re doing is treating awkward sex acts with the same offhandedness as a lab experiment.

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Gaga for Double Standards

Though she denies being a feminist on the basis of loving “male culture–beers, bars and muscles cars” Lady Gaga sure is acting like one. In this video she is quick to pick up on some of the daily double standards women in the music industry face. Also, she has amazing purple hair and says that her current muses are “monsters and play girls”. What does that even mean? Ah, to be an artist…

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There were no female artists in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of All Time

As in, none.

There were lots of oldies (presented here in some freaking awesome graphs) like the Pixies, a few lines sung by women, and even a girl bassist — but as this FasterLouder thread points out, we’re really clutching straws here people.

I am genuinely perplexed. Madonna, anyone? Bjork? Kate Bush?

Anyway, my hazy conclusion has been a) the music industry is probably a bit of a boys club and b) Triple J listeners were growing up and most influenced by a certain generation of all-male acts. Also, are mens voices more pleasant? Maybe that’s it… I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

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Bitches Iz Crazy?

So, remember how I was blogging about NRL scandal ‘Clare’? And how I had initial misgivings about sympathy for her seeing as I don’t see why I don’t see there should be get-out-of-jail-free passes for people who drink first and regret what happens after? Well, if this West Australian study (thanks Captain Nick) is to be believed, my initial hunches about human behaviour weren’t totally misplaced.

The report suggests that drink spiking doesn’t exist; that most people who claim their drinks have been tampered with are actually merely victims of their own lack of judgment and are ill as a result of substances voluntarily consumed.

Obviously, I had a few questions about this study. For starters, sample size and type — are the stats here good enough to draw conclusions from?

“The study took in 101 people who were taken to two Perth hospitals as suspected victims of drink spiking over 19 months.”

Almost all of the participants were women under 25, out on the town during the weekend. Now all this seems fairly reasonable, and as the scientist in the story suggests, our society probably has bigger safety concerns than date rape narcotics.

Having answered that, the question then remains: why did 101 people admit themselves to hospital for having their drinks spiked? Is this another example of science and the media supporting what I refer to as the ‘bitches is crazy’ theorem?

Maybe, but probably not. 101 people over 19 months in a whole city isn’t that many, and it’s not hard to imagine how many yoofs doing dumb shit need an excuse for their actions when they also need to be hospitalised at a certain point on a Friday.

All that said, let’s imaging giving them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s imagine that at least some of them thought their drinks had been spiked. Why? It’s hard to say, but a lot of things can happen to a person in a night that leaves them feeling violated and not many of those things are easy to articulate. The stats might say that date rape’s a myth, but they can’t prove feeling unsafe is.

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Just to get warmed up again

As a throwback to the debate about strong female characters in this post, I thought it was worth putting up this comic (thanks Isaac). I’ll be doing a more significant post soon.

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These Boyz Kill It

SPOILER WARNING

God I love Flight of the Conchords. Not to the extent the rest of New Zealand’s entertainment industry probably hates them, but I digress. If you’re yet to discover this delightful duo of dunces, let me recommend this clip.

I’ll mention at this stage that Season 2 of this series hasn’t been released in Australia yet, so the episode I’ve seen was essentially stolen. Though I didn’t download it myself, does that make it any better? Anyway, the rest of the episode goes to find Jemaine fall in love with the forbidden (and hilariously ocker) Australian girl he goes home with that night, Keitha. Keitha feigns reciprocity, tricks Jemaine into thinking they are eloping and then uses Jemaine’s absence as an opportunity to ransack the apartment he shares with Brett.

For as long as I can remember, being incompetent has been funny. Noone sympathises wih a winner, and that’s what this show brilliantly capitalises on; the whole first season has viewers edge of seats, phlanges crossed, hoping and praying the band will get a gig. Leaving aside the fact that a deal with HBO is a pretty sweet gig, Brett and Jemaine are giant losers and we love them for it. They’re also very straight, which in itself is of course unproblematic. My issue with this “dopey useless boy” caricature is not that it’s not an astute satire of masculinity, because it is. Rather, the issue is that it robs women in this program of the room for that kind of likability — they’re all relegated to either pathetic (sycophantic super-groupie Meg) or conniving (sex hungry, hostage-taking Keitha).

Where are the strong female characters in this show?

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